The Art of Book Reviews


The Art of Book Reviews,
hosted by Digby Diehl

Monday, September 24, 2007

A top-notch panel of book reviewers moderated by Digby Diehl demystifies the steps involved in critiquing a work of literature: what they look for, what matters, and what qualities make literature resonate with the public. In addition, who is it that decides which books are reviewed?

Panelists include Los Angeles Times Book Review critic Erika Schickel, Amazon reviewer Dr. John L. Murphy, literary fiction reviewer Edward St. John, nationally syndicated radio host Michael Dresser, and award-winning author and critic Amy Wilentz.

Moderator

DIGBY DIEHL is one of the most trusted and successful literary collaborators in America. He is the founding editor of the Los Angeles Times Book Review and was the first online book reviewer for Prodigy. Over his distinguished career, he’s been a literary and entertainment critic for numerous broadcast outlets. His book credits include entertainment autobiographies, including the New York Times bestseller Million Dollar Mermaid, actress Esther Williams’s life story, and Natalie Cole’s Angel on My Shoulder, a Los Angeles Times No. 1 bestseller. He penned the novel Soapsuds with actress Finola Hughes. Diehl has moderated IWOSC “Conversations” with Mariette Hartley and Sandra Tsing Loh.

The panel

AMY WILENTZ divides her time between being a critic and an author. Her criticism and stories have appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Time magazine, The New Republic, Mother Jones, Harper’s, Vogue, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel & Leisure, The San Francisco Chronicle, More, The Village Voice, The London Review of Books, and many other publications. She is the author of The Rainy Season: Haiti Since Duvalier (1989), Martyrs’ Crossing (2000), and I Feel Earthquakes More Often Than They Happen: Coming to California in the Age of Schwarzenegger (2006). She is the winner of the Whiting Writers Award, the PEN Martha Albrand Non-Fiction Award, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Rosenthal Award, and is also a 1990 nominee for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

She is the former Jerusalem correspondent of The New Yorker and a long-time contributing editor at The Nation. She teaches in the Literary Journalism program at the University of California at Irvine.

ERIKA SCHICKEL is a regular book critic and occasional opinion page contributor for the Los Angeles Times. Her reviews can also be seen in the Chicago Tribune and Bust magazine. She writes features for LA Weekly, LA City Beat, and LAObserved.com. In addition, her work has appeared online at HipMama.com, RhinoRecords.com, TheDailyReel.com, and she is a featured “Native Intelligence” contributor on LAObserved.com.

She is the author of You’re Not the Boss of Me: Adventures of a Modern Mom, which is currently being developed as a television series. Raised in New York City, Schickel now makes her home in Los Angeles, where she divides her time between being a writer, a mom, and sometimes actress. Her website is ErikaSchickel.com.

DR. JOHN L. MURPHY, a fulltime professor of Humanities at DeVry University in Long Beach, Calif. is one of the most prolific book and music critics to appear on Amazon.com. He was ranked a “Top 1000” Amazon reviewer as of September 2006 and has logged upwards of 730 reviews. With a specialty in Irish literature, folk, and rock music, Murphy’s reviews can also be found in scholarly works such as The Irish Book Review, Irish Literary Supplement, and New Hibernia Review. On the Internet, more than three dozen of his articles and reviews can be found on The Blanket, a Belfast-based journal, and at rootsworld.com, a digital magazine of world music.

While EDWARD ST. JOHN has made a career out of cataloging music and other information at various academic institutions such as Smith College, Loyola Marymount University, and Loyola Law School, he’s led a parallel life as a literary critic. He began reviewing literary fiction for the Library Journal in the mid-1980s. Additionally, he’s added Dow Jones, Salem Press, and Magill’s Literary Annual to his repertoire during the ‘90s.

MICHAEL DRESSER is a nationally syndicated talk radio host whose author-centric programs are heard from California to New York, and also abroad. On an average day, his radio show features eight authors. He has utilized his 25 years of experience and knowledge to create a media training and communications program on his show that gives writers the ability to bring their message home with confidence, clarity, and the relevance needed to intrigue the buying public, regardless of subject matter. According to Dresser, “if you sell the sizzle your book sales will skyrocket.” Visit Dresser’s website at MichaelDresserShow.com.